As the famous author Gavin Kennedy said, “everything is negotiable”. I’m going to let you in on a little secret of the wedding industry – You can negotiate with that expensive wedding planner, you can get discounts from that award winning florist, and even the “you-should-have-reserved-me-six-months-ago” photographer gives out the occasional deal. The key is this: Find a way to make their job easier (cheaper, simpler, shorter, or whatever) or do something that creates value for them. If you can accomplish either task, you’ll have good reason to ask for a discount, deal, or upgrade.
Although saving a few bucks here and there may not seem like a lot, your negotiations can have a huge impact on your overall budget if you get all of your vendors to budge just a little on their price. For the average bride, negotiating a discount of just 10% with every vendor would result in a total savings of over $2,700! Now that I’ve gotten your attention, here are seven techniques to achieve these savings:
1. Timing is Everything
Just like hotel rooms and airfare, wedding services are more expensive the more in demand that they are. If you’re planning your wedding on a Saturday night in June, expect to pay top dollar for everything. But if you have the flexibility to choose a less popular date or even the time of day, you can probably negotiate a better rate.
People in the wedding industry work almost exclusively on weekends, and are seldom booked Monday through Wednesday. However, this doesn’t mean that the only way to save money is to plan your wedding on a Tuesday morning at 10:00 AM (although I’m certain that you could score some great deals if you did!). Consider booking your ceremony on a Saturday morning and having an early afternoon wedding reception. As long as your vendors can still book a Saturday evening gig, you might be able to get a better rate than if you booked on a Saturday night.
Another way to save money might be to book at the very last minute. Most brides book their wedding services months in advance. So if a vendor has nothing scheduled for this weekend, it’s highly unlikely that he is going to book anything. Use this to your advantage! Most vendors would rather book something than have nothing, even if it means that they do it for less money.
Let’s say that you didn’t hire a photographer because you couldn’t quite fit it into your budget (after all, your Uncle Carl has a camera that he barely knows how to use, and he will do it for free!). One week before your wedding date, call around to find photographers that are still available and see if they are willing to give you a killer last minute deal.
2. Bundle Wedding Services
Often times, people in the wedding businesses offer more than one product or service. For example, in addition to sound systems and a cheesy voice, a DJ might also have a portable dance floor, lighting, or a stage for rent. A catering company might also own a bakery, so they could make your wedding cake in addition to providing food. Most vendors would rather book one large event than two smaller ones, so they’re more likely to give you a discount if you book them for multiple services. When you interview vendors, find out what other services they provide and ask what kind of discount they’ll offer if you book the whole kit-and-caboodle.
3. Negotiate a Shorter Time Period
Just because you’ve planned an entire day of nuptial celebrations doesn’t mean that you need to have every vendor present the entire time. Save money on your wedding by having the DJ only play for the last three hours, or by scheduling the caterer or photographer for targeted time periods. If you specify that a vendor only has to be at the event for part of it, they might be able to give you a better rate (especially if it leaves them enough time to go work another wedding that same evening).
4. Trade Services
Ask yourself the question “What do I do, make, or have that might be valuable to others?” Keep in mind that many (if not most) wedding vendors are self employed, so they might be interested in goods or services for their home as well as their business. These vendors are already spending money on services such as lawn mowing, accounting, legal, window cleaning, house cleaning, and much, much more. If you (or someone in your family) provides any kind of goods or service, it can’t hurt to ask your wedding vendors if they’d be interested in a trade. In our business, we have traded our photo booth services for tickets to sporting events, print advertising, and for promoting our business.
One final note on trading: Make sure you don’t undervalue what you are offering. Trade your goods or services at full retail value.
5. Be a Promoter
Recently a prospective customer inquired about a photo booth for his birthday party, but our services were beyond his budget. However, he had something as valuable as money – he had influence via his popular podcast and Facebook page. We struck a deal to trade Facebook “Likes” for credit toward his photo booth rental. Over the next few weeks, he persuaded his followers to like our page by posting about us and running contests for people who liked our page. By the end, he was able to pay for his whole event just by promoting my business to his social network.
Even if you don’t have thousands of Twitter followers, you still can create value for your vendors. Offer to promote their wedding business in return for discounts or credit. Just make sure that your results are tangible and measurable so there is no confusion, and get it in writing. Here are a few ideas of ways you can help promote a vendor’s business:
- Agree to write reviews on five bridal websites within a month of your wedding date
- Record a short YouTube video promoting their business and describing their service and your experience
- Agree to post something nice about their business along with a link to their page or profile on all your social networks, including Twitter, Facebook, Yelp, etc
- Share photos of their products or services on your Pinterest and Instagram profiles and mention or hashtag the name of the business
- If you have a blog, create a post that describes your experience. Include links to the company’s website, Facebook profile, etc.
- “Like” their Facebook profile and use the “Recommend” feature to write a review
- Promote their Facebook profile to your own network and encourage your contacts to “Like” them
- Give the vendor a list of 10 friends who are getting engaged/married in the next year and tell them that the vendor will be contacting them.
The best part of this technique? Now you can tell your fiancé that all that time you spend on Facebook is productive.
6. Book multiple events
There’s a reason Costco has cheaper prices than the grocery store – they sell in bulk. If you can book more than one event with the same vendor, they’ll likely be willing to cut you a deal. Partner with a sister, cousin, friend, coworker, or anyone else who is getting married. If you both book, the vendor doesn’t have to spend as much time selling to two customers or paying for additional advertising costs. I would gladly give 10% off to any bride who brings me two gigs for the advertising price of one.
7. Look for Specials
There are many hidden specials that are just waiting to be discovered by the enterprising bride or groom:
Start off by asking your venue if they have specific vendors that they recommend. Often times these vendors offer discounts or upgrades in return for being on the venue’s “preferred vendors list”. When you call, mention that you were referred by your venue and ask if they offer any specials.
Bridal shows are another great place to score deals on just about any wedding service or product. Most wedding vendors offer a bridal show special that is only good if you book them on the day of the show. These deals can be significant, discounts of 10% to 25% are common. Do your homework ahead of time so you can make a decision in the moment and take advantage of these specials.
If you don’t already, subscribe to every local daily deal website. At a minimum, you should check out Groupon, Living Social, and KSL, but there are many others as well. These sites commonly run deeply discounted deals for photographers, party rentals, travel, and more. Usually you can save at least 50% off of retail if you buy via these sites.
But buyer beware, sometimes these daily deals can be too good to be true. Make sure you read the fine print carefully before you buy. Some common pitfalls are blackout dates, restrictions (i.e. Sunday through Thursday only), limited availability, or short expiration dates. Be aware that some vendors only offer their bare minimum service as part of the deal and then try to “nickel and dime” you with upgrades.
One final note on daily deals: Sometimes businesses sign up to offer these deals out of desperation because they are on the verge of going out of business. If their business fails before you redeem your deal, you may be out of luck.
This list is by no means comprehensive, I’m certain that there are many more ways that you can get discounts, upgrades, and deals from all of your wedding vendors. Your vendors may not respond to every one of these techniques, but it’s quite likely that at least one technique will work with every vendor. Get creative and find ways to achieve a “win-win” with these businesses, and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to save a lot of money on your wedding. Maybe even enough to go on that lavish honeymoon you’ve been dreaming of.